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Iran Report: January 26, 2004

26 January 2004, Volume 7, Number 4

GUARDIANS COUNCIL SLOWLY REINSTATES SOME CANDIDATES. Mohammad Jahromi, who is in charge of election affairs at the Guardians Council, said on 19 January that the files of some of the disqualified prospective candidates for the February parliamentary election have been examined and they have been reinstated, Fars News Agency (FNA) reported. In other cases, the initial opinions of the supervisory boards that led to their disqualifications have been confirmed, he said.

The files relating to Hormozgan, Kurdistan, Semnan, Sistan va Baluchistan, and Tehran provinces have been examined, Jahromi said. He added that the Guardians Council has received 3,125 complaints, 1,830 of them from disqualified candidates.

The unnamed head of the Supervisory Board in Kohkiluyeh va Boirahmad Province told FNA on 19 January that the qualifications of many disqualified prospective candidates have now been approved. The names have not been finalized yet, he said, and the prospective candidates will be informed soon.

Abbas Kadkhodai, a jurist member of the Guardians Council, said on 20 January that the files of people whose candidacy was rejected are being reviewed, and so far the candidacies of 200 people have been endorsed, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. Gholamhussein Ismaili, the Khorasan Province Supervisory Board spokesman, said on 21 January that the Guardians Council reinstated the candidacy of about 100 people from the province, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. The candidacy of no incumbent candidates was approved, however, according to Ismaili. And on 23 January state radio cited Jahromi as saying that a total of 350 people have had their candidacies reinstated. Jahromi went on to say that an investigation of the disqualified individuals' complaints will continue until the 30 January deadline for announcing the qualified candidates.

The Interior Ministry-affiliated election headquarters faxed a statement to IRNA on 21 January in which it complained about such announcements. It said that the Guardians Council must first apprise the headquarters of the list of qualified candidates, and then the headquarters informs the constituencies. The headquarters statement continued: "Therefore, announcement of such news: particularly orally, by a [Guardians Council] member prior to informing the Interior Ministry is an illegal move and has made thousands of hopefuls refer to us: asking whether they are among the so far approved 200, or not."

President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said he would do his utmost to ensure that Iran has a free and fair parliamentary election and that all candidates have equal opportunities, IRNA reported, citing a letter released by the Presidential Office on 20 January. Khatami expressed the hope that the Guardians Council will yield to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's instructions to review the disqualification of prospective candidates. Khamenei had instructed the council to reinstate the candidacy of incumbent parliamentarians, some 80 of whom it rejected (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 19 January 2004).

Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari said after the 21 January cabinet meeting that the Guardians Council is expected to end the current crisis and restore the conditions in which all prospective candidates can compete in the parliamentary election, IRNA reported. Musavi-Lari pointed out that the supreme leader had issued guidelines on approving candidacies, and President Khatami and Speaker of Parliament Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi met with the Guardians Council, but "we have not seen any move from the Guardians Council in keeping with the eminent leader's remarks."

Musavi-Lari went on to say that his ministry has prepared a list of 618 people whose candidacy for office was approved in previous elections. "We will put this list of 618 names at the Guardians Council's disposal and the Guardians Council, in order to show its goodwill, can announce this list [approve their qualifications], and this will not take much time."

Khatami and Karrubi conceded in a 24 January statement that their meeting with the Guardians Council failed to yield results and the council's explanations did not clarify the situation, IRNA reported. They urged the council to publish a record of the meeting in order to enlighten the public. (Bill Samii)

VIGILANTES ATTACK POLITICAL MEETING. About 200 members of the hard-line Ansar-i Hizbullah vigilante group attacked a 21 January political meeting of disqualified prospective parliamentary candidates and their supporters at the Teacher's Hall in Hamedan, IRNA and AFP reported the next day. The meeting, which was organized by associates of the reformist 2nd of Khordad coalition, was in support of the sit-in at the legislature in Tehran. The Hizbullah members entered the hall, heckled the speakers, chanted slogans such "the blood in our veins will be submitted as a gift to our leader," and then rushed the speakers' platform. The speakers included parliamentary representative Hussein Loqmanian, student leaders Said Razavi-Faqih and Reza Kakavand, national-religious activist Hadi Ehtezazi, and local Islamic Iran Participation Party leader Hussein Mujahid. Mujahid reportedly suffered a broken arm and nose and was taken to the city's Mobasher Hospital. The police stopped the brawl. (Bill Samii)

WORKERS MAY SELL ORGANS TO EARN MONEY. Mansur Suleimani-Meimandi, the parliamentary representative from Shahr-i Babak, Kerman Province, said on 25 January that security forces killed four people and injured many others when they attacked copper factory workers who were striking, AFP reported. The protest started in the Khatunabad village near Shahr-i Babak, the legislator said, adding that the workers were demonstrating for permanent contracts.

Some of the 300 employees of the Samico Industrial Company on 20 January staged a protest in front of Hamedan's Amir al-Momenin Mosque to demand their unpaid wages, the Islamic Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported. "The workers are facing immense economic pressure because they have not received wages for several months," Labor Council head Changiz Aslani said. "In fact, some of them are peddling their household articles and some are ready to sell their body parts to supplement their income."

The company's managing director, identified only as Mr. Ibrahimi, denied that he has not paid the workers and complained that the Mines and Industries Organization has not supplied the raw materials the company needs. Ibrahimi went on to say that if a proposed restructuring of the company takes place he will have to lay off all but 59 workers, and if the workers agree to this all of the factory's problems will be resolved by spring. The report did not say what Samico Industrial Company actually produces.

Such protests by workers are not unusual, but because they are not organized on a national level they do not become serious concerns for the regime. In November, for example, reformist websites such as,, and reported on many demonstrations by workers. In Arak and Isfahan, 500 petrochemical workers demonstrated against plans to separate their firms from the Petroleum Ministry, and petrochemical workers in Khark threatened to reduce their productivity. A staff representative in Abadan complained that 730 petrochemical workers were laid off due to privatization.

Also in November, Yazd factory workers protested and demanded greater attention to retirement issues, reported. In Tabriz, 70 textile workers broke windows and burned tires to protest against the lack of wages; 300 Kashan textile workers demanded nine-months back pay; and 130 Hormozgan Province textile workers protested against job losses when their factory relocated to Gilan Province.

In the same month, employees of a sugar-cane factory in Yasuj struck as a protest against low wages and bad management, reported. In Somesara, 300 workers protested against the closure of their silk factory, and 300 employees of a company in Gilan Province complained to officials that they were not paid for five months. (Bill Samii)

TEACHERS PROTEST NONPAYMENT OF WAGES. A group of Iranian teachers staged a protest from 17-19 January by being present in the schools but not teaching, "Sharq" reported on 18 January. Shahabeddin Etedali, the Education Ministry's deputy for logistics, reportedly said the teachers are due about 4 billion rials (about $506,000) in overdue salaries, but if everything goes according to plan the teachers should be paid by the end of the month. The "Sharq" report suggested that the coincidence of the teachers' protest with the current sit-in at the legislature might motivate the government to act swiftly to reduce tensions.

In November, teachers from Gilan, Hamedan, Isfahan, Kerman, Kermanshah, Khorasan, Shiraz, Tehran, Urumiyeh, Yazd, and Zanjan provinces held demonstrations in front of provincial Management and Planning Organization (MPO) offices, the website reported at the time. According to "Sharq," however, the MPO has not fulfilled the promises it made then. The MPO was supposed to submit legislation making teachers' salaries more uniform with those of other civil servants.

At an October 2003 protest, teachers called for greater attention to their salaries and pensions as well as a greater focus on education in the fourth five-year plan, which will start in 2005 (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 13 October 2003). Hard-line vigilantes attacked a December 2002 teacher's demonstration because of low salaries and poor working conditions and, in January 2002, teachers across the country staged demonstrations (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 February and 16 December 2003). (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN REFOCUSES COUNTERNARCOTICS APPROACH. Ali Hashemi, secretary-general of Iran's Drug Control Headquarters, said at a ceremony in Kerman Province on 19 January marking the recent seizure of four tons of narcotics, that Iran's counternarcotics approach over the last 24 years has been one-dimensional and impractical, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Iran has directed its efforts at interdiction, but Hashemi said Iran should learn from international campaigns that focus more on treatment and the reduction of vulnerability. The lowest proportion of drug-control spending went to treatment and prevention, he said, and "over 90 percent of expenditures by the government in its antidrug campaign have been ineffective."

Hashemi went on to say that, for the first time in Iran's history, only 40 percent of the counternarcotics budget will go to interdiction while 60 percent of the budget will go to "cultural, educational, and precautionary measures."

Hashemi said 160 metric tons of narcotics were seized in the first three quarters of the Iranian year (which began on 21 March 2003), or 40 percent more than in the same period one year earlier. He attributed the higher figure to increased trafficking and to improved policing. In fact, Iran leads the world in seizures of opiates, and Afghanistan is the world's leading opium producer (; and

Interdiction, nevertheless, continues to be an important aspect of the counternarcotics campaign. Iranian police chief Brigadier General Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said at a 19 January security seminar in Tehran that Iran has land and sea borders with some 15 countries, "but, in many areas only one side of these borders are under control," IRNA reported. The chief of the border patrol, Colonel Behnam Shariati-Far, added that security along the frontiers has deteriorated since the liberations of Afghanistan and Iraq, leading to problems with smuggling and illegal border crossings.

In Zaranj, a city in southwestern Afghanistan's Nimruz Province, Iranian Ambassador to Afghanistan Mohammad Reza Bahrami said on 19 January that Iran plans to build five checkpoints along the shared border with that province, Iranian state radio's Pashto service reported. Radio Afghanistan reported from Kabul on 17 December that Iran is paying for 25 checkpoints that will be built along the shared Afghanistan-Iran border. There will be three checkpoints in Farah Province, seven in Nimruz Province, and the 12 in Herat Province are 90 percent complete. Hafizullah Khan (a.k.a. Hafizullah Hashemi), the governor of Afghanistan's Zabol Province, said during a 3 December visit to Iran's Sistan va Baluchistan Province that Iran has provided 2.5 billion rials (about $316,000) for the construction of seven checkpoints along the border of Nimruz Province, and it will provide 50 billion rials for social, health, and security projects, Iranian state radio's Pashto service reported.

Securing Iran's eastern border, which is more than 1,800 kilometers long (936 kilometers with Afghanistan and 909 kilometers with Pakistan), is incredibly difficult. "The borders of Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan converge just a few kilometers from here," Sistan va Baluchistan Province Governor Hussein Amini explained in the 1 January issue of Milan's "Panorama." "They are virtual lines of demarcation, drawn on maps but ignored by the nomadic peoples who have roamed to and fro across them for centuries in search of pasture."

Geography is not the only problem facing the security forces. Frontier police commander Mohammad Fadai Mollashahi told "Panorama" that the smugglers "travel by night, at top speed, in convoys of 50 or 60 four-wheel drives, half of them loaded with weapons and narcotics and the other half as protection, with machine guns, grenades, rocket launchers, and SAM-7 surface-to-air missiles capable of shooting our helicopters down. We join full-fledged pitched battles against them."

Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, visited Iran from November-December 2003 and, in a 5 December interview with, he noted that the Iranian authorities are deeply committed to reducing and controlling the flow of narcotics from Afghanistan. He said that Iran is effectively under attack by traffickers of opium, heroin, and hashish from Afghanistan, as well as hashish from Africa. Costa added that Drug Control Headquarters chief Ali Hashemi also expressed concern about an influx of synthetic drugs from Europe.

"It is not clear to me as yet, though, why the percentage of the population abusing substances is so high -- it is unusually high," Costa said. Iranian officials say that some 1.2 million citizens are addicts and another 800,000 abuse drugs. Some 2.7 million addicts have been arrested in the last 20 years, according to Anti-Narcotics Committee deputy head Hamid Qalibaf on 29 November, IRNA reported.

Twenty-year-old Amir from Tehran told RFE/RL's Golnaz Esfandiari that many of his friends turn to drugs as a means of escape. "We don't have entertainment here, and drugs are very cheap and easy to get. Whatever you get from the supermarket, for the same price you can buy drugs in your neighborhood," Amir said. "Because of this lack of entertainment, whenever young people get together, the only thing they think about is getting and using drugs because it makes them happy. And also because of the problems they have, they want to get rid of these problems for some time. They have no hope in the future. They think there is no future for them in Iran." (Bill Samii)

DRUGS FLOW INTO IRAQ FROM IRAN. Instability and insecurity in Iraq has created an opening for drug traffickers and, according to Arabic news sources, much of the illicit drug supply comes from Iran. Iranian smugglers reportedly are using religious tourism in the shrine cities of Karbala and Al-Najaf as a cover for their activities.

Sheikh Mithal al-Hasnawi, who heads the office of Muhammad al-Sadr in Karbala, said that his organization has created committees for the Prohibition of Vice and Promotion of Virtue, "Al-Hayah" reported on 28 November. They have arrested Iranians who possessed cocaine, heroin, hashish, and "'al-tiriyak,' [opium] this is a specialty used by the Iranians." Major Nabil Hamid Mansur of the police department said that sellers of religious books sell the drugs brought in from Iran, and added, "most of the drug dealers disguise themselves as Islamic clerics in order to foil [the] police." A public relations official with the Karbala police added that these drug traffickers also smuggle antiquities.

Colonel Karim Hajim Sultan, the Karbala Governorate police director, said that a number of Iranians and Iraqis were arrested for drug trafficking in the previous week, Baghdad's "Al-Nahdah" reported on 1 October. He added that some Iranians entered the country illegally and are involved in the promotion of drugs and alcohol and other illicit activities. He said other Iranian visitors complained that they were swindled and stolen from, but the police arrested those who committed these crimes.

A lengthy 17 September report in Baghdad's "Al-Sa'ah" carried several interviews with Karbala residents and police officials. A local policeman said that the porous border and the influx of visitors from neighboring states has encouraged drug traffickers, who are even selling their wares to Iraqi gangs for distribution.

A four member United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime team that visited Iraq in August noted that drugs could become an issue. The team concluded, "Although drug trafficking is not yet viewed as a serious problem, given Iraq's porous borders, geographical location -- situated near one of the major drug routes for the smuggling of opiates from Afghanistan -- and an established tradition of smuggling, a strong possibility of an increase in drug trafficking exists," the UN Information Service reported on 27 August. (Bill Samii)

KHATAMI PREACHES DIALOGUE IN SWITZERLAND. President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi arrived in Zurich on 19 January for a four-day visit to Switzerland, IRNA reported.

According to IRNA, Khatami's visit came at the invitation of Swiss President Joseph Deiss. (Deiss visited Tehran when he was foreign minister; see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 November 2002.) Iranian-Swiss trade has increased recently, with Swiss exports to Iran in 2002 totaling more than $379 million, according to IRNA. The two sides have also signed recent agreements addressing double taxation and investment protection, the agency reported.

Khatami was officially welcomed in Bern by Deiss on 20 January, IRNA reported. During their meeting, Deiss expressed concern about the plight of democracy in Iran. Khatami responded that because democracy is new to Iran, it is encountering difficulties. "We are intent on holding a free election and to provide chances for a competitive campaign," Khatami said. "What is under way in the country is a domestic concern and taken to be acceptable to the democratic community."

Deiss hosted Khatami at a luncheon and they later held a press conference. Khatami thanked Switzerland for the relief it provided for victims of the December earthquake in Bam, Swiss Info reported. Khatami later met with Swiss Protestant and Catholic leaders.

Khatami also participated in the 21-25 January World Economic Forum in Davos. Khatami said that officials in charge of the forum "insisted" that he attend when they met during Khatami's previous visit to Switzerland (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 15 December 2003), state television reported on 19 January. "The visit will create an opportunity to meet world political, economic and cultural authorities without formalities and diplomatic procedure," Khatami also said, according to state television.

Khatami addressed the forum on 21 January. He went on at some length about the importance of "dialogue" and its contribution to "real understanding," according to a text of the speech from IRNA. Some of his comments could be interpreted as a warning to other states -- "instead of regarding ourselves as the ruler of the global village, we [should] realize that, for example, establishment of democracy is a process rather than a revolutionary action!"

At the subsequent press conference Khatami fielded questions that dealt with issues ranging from nuclear developments (see below) to relations with the U.S. and with Israel, according to Iranian state television. A correspondent noted that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney would be in Davos and this would be an opportunity to put into practice Khatami's "plea for dialogue."

Khatami responded: "The dialogue that I spoke of was a dialogue between culture and civilizations. And also the dialogue between scholars and wise men. If those dialogues are realized and materialized then we can have political dialogues as well. The prerequisite to any dialogue is the mutual respect between the two parties of the dialogue. Anywhere that we sense and feel that the other side respects us and does not force anything upon us, we are prepared to talk and listen. We have not sensed that from the United States' side. I hope the changes that we have witnessed in the tone that is used by the United States will not be a tactical ploy but a real strategy to change policies and attitudes."

A correspondent from Israel's "Maariv" newspaper asked Khatami if there are any circumstances under which Iran would recognize the state of Israel. Khatami answered: "We have a moral issue with Israel and the world. And that moral point is that occupation does not bring legitimacy. And it is very dangerous to occupy some lands and then claim ownership of that land. But we do not interfere in the affairs of others. We respect the decision of the people of Palestine. Whatever they decide will be respected by us and others. We want a type of state and government in that part of the world where Jews, Christians, and Muslims can live in peace and brotherhood with each other."

Khatami left Davos for Zurich and then home on 22 January, IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)

STATE OF THE UNION NOTES PERSIAN BROADCASTING. Iran was again mentioned in the State of the Union address, which President George W. Bush gave on 20 January, this time in the context of its hostile rhetoric and in the context of its nuclear activities, according to a copy of the speech posted on the U.S. presidential website ( Describing U.S. strategy in the Middle East, President Bush said, "To cut through the barriers of hateful propaganda, the Voice of America and other broadcast services are expanding their programming in Arabic and Persian." (Bill Samii)

INTERNATIONAL CONCERN OVER IRAN'S NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES UNABATED. When he discussed the nuclear issue in the State of the Union address, U.S. President George W. Bush said, "America and the international community are demanding that Iran meet its commitments and not develop nuclear weapons. America is committed to keeping the world's most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the most dangerous regimes." During his address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, furthermore, Vice President Dick Cheney said, "We believe the Iranians have been actively and aggressively pursuing an effort to develop nuclear weapons," "Ha'aretz" reported on 24 January. "They deny that, but there seems to be a good deal of evidence out there to support the fact that that's exactly what they have been doing."

Yet the United States is not the only international actor that views Iranian nuclear activities with concern, although it has acted the most decisively to confront them. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and European officials recently urged Iran to cooperate more actively.

An "Al-Hayat" reporter at the Davos World Economic Forum meeting asked President Khatami on 21 January if Iran was cooperating with the IAEA because it feared America's firm foreign-policy line, as was suggested in the State of the Union address.

Khatami rejected this view, according to Iranian state television, and noted that Iran was already a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. He continued by contrasting U.S. and European approaches to Iran: "Therefore all the noise and fanfare by the United States didn't have any impact on our decision. But our cooperation and understanding that we reached with the European countries was a good example that you can move forward through understanding and dialogue."

Khatami also said Iran's cooperation with the IAEA would continue, adding that Iran has the right to use nuclear energy peacefully, and insisting that other countries fulfill promises to help Iran's nuclear program, state television reported.

Meanwhile, anonymous "Western diplomats and nuclear experts" said on 20 January that Iran has not fully suspended its uranium-enrichment related activities, AP reported. Iran has stopped putting uranium into enrichment equipment, but it reportedly continues to make the centrifuges that can enrich uranium for use as reactor fuel or as weapons material. The IAEA is negotiating with Iran over this issue. According to AP, IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei believes the manufacturing of the centrifuges should stop.

El-Baradei warned Iran on 22 January that a failure to cooperate with IAEA investigations could lead to "serious consequences," according to a report from Pakistan's "Daily Times." He went on to tell the BBC that day, "I wouldn't say they [the Iranians] are not living up to their obligations, but I think that there are issues they still need to clarify."

El-Baradei met with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi in Davos and urged him to suspend more enrichment activities, "Ha'aretz" reported on 24 January. "I am advising them that it would be good to have a very generous, comprehensive suspension," el-Baradei said.

Foreign ministers from France, Germany, and Great Britain also discussed Iranian nuclear activities on 19 January, the "Daily Times" reported on 22 January. They reportedly discussed Tehran's continuing accumulation of enrichment equipment. An anonymous diplomat in Vienna said that London and Paris believe that the Iranian activities are "unacceptable," while Germany is advocating a softer line.

The French, German, and British foreign ministers -- Dominique de Villepin, Joschka Fischer, and Jack Straw, respectively -- visited Tehran in late October, and the two sides subsequently issued a declaration on Iran's nuclear program (for the full text, see Iran, according to the declaration, "decided voluntarily to suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities in advance of its ratification." Iranian officials, however, insisted that the suspension of enrichment activities was only temporary (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 October 2003). (Bill Samii)

MERCENARY IRANIAN TESTIFIES IN GERMAN AL-QAEDA TRIAL. An Iranian's recent testimony has added a strange twist to the trial of Abdleghani Mzoudi, a Moroccan who allegedly assisted the Hamburg-based terrorist cell responsible for hijacking the aircraft that were flown into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001, according to articles in the 22 and 23 January editions of the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," "Die Welt," "Der Tagesspiegel," and "The Los Angeles Times."

The witness, Hamid Reza Zakeri, has claimed in the past to be a former official in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and the supreme leader's office (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 24 February 2003).

Zakeri on 21 January told the Hamburg Regional Appeals Court that Iran has been Al-Qaeda's main operational base since the 1990s, and Iran deliberately established the Hamburg cell. He said that Osama Bin Laden's son, Saad bin Laden, visited Iran twice before 11 September 2001, and the defendant, Mzoudi, met in Iran with Al-Qaeda military leader Saif al-Adel.

Zakeri claimed that on 4 May 2001 Saad bin Laden met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, and Ayatollahs Mohammad Yazdi, Mohammad Reza Mahdavi-Kani, and Ali-Akbar Meshkini-Qumi. He also claimed that, in January 2001, Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahiri, believed to be the second-highest official in Al-Qaeda, discussed a "significant operation" against the U.S. and Israel with a high-ranking Iranian intelligence officer.

Zakeri claims he warned the Central Intelligence Agency station in Baku about the pending terrorist attack after he fled Iran in July 2001, but the person with whom he spoke dismissed his claims.

Mzoudi's attorney noted that Zakeri has openly stated that his claims are linked with his desire to secure a livelihood, and a German security expert dismissed him as "extremely adventurous," the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. "It is doubtful, however, whether the former agent is telling the truth," according to "Der Tagesspiegel."

A June 2003 article in "Insight Magazine" had discussed the potentially devastating impact of Zakeri's claims. It said: "Zakeri backed up his account of the two meetings between Al-Qaeda and Iran with a [14 May 2001] document signed by Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri, who heads the Ministry of Information and Security [MOIS] for Khamenei."

The fact that Ali-Akbar Nateq-Nuri, a former speaker of parliament, has never headed the MOIS, should have raised some doubts. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN CLAIMS IT WILL TRY A DOZEN AL-QAEDA SUSPECTS. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said on 23 January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that Iran will try 12 of the alleged Al-Qaeda members that Tehran claims it has in custody, Tehran television reported on 24 January. "Their trial will start once the investigations have been completed," he said. Kharrazi was adamant that the suspects would not be turned over to another country because they have acted against Iranian national security.

An anonymous "senior Iranian diplomat" said in the 24 January "The Washington Post" that these individuals had weapons and communications equipment, as well as forged documents, when they were detained. The source added that the charges against them are mainly connected with their illegal entry into Iran and their clashes with Iranian security personnel. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan reacted to a 23 January question on this issue by saying that Iran should turn these people over to their countries of origin, according to the White House website ( A number of countries have asked Tehran to turn over the Al-Qaeda suspects it has detained, McClellan said, "And the Iranians have continued to ignore those requests." McClellan pointed out that Tehran has made the claim about trying Al-Qaeda suspects before. He continued, "We want to see action, and the action we want to see is that they turn over those Al-Qaeda members in their custody to their country of origin." (Bill Samii)